Kennedy unveils details of Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., released the following statement today in response to passage by the Senate of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., released the following statement today in response to passage by the Senate of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The bill passed the Senate today by a vote of 61-37 and will now go into conference with the House of Representatives.

“Now, more than ever, we need a strong economic recovery package that creates jobs, strengthens the safety net, and invests wisely in the nation’s future. I’m pleased that my colleagues in the Senate have passed such a strong bill, and I look forward to prompt and successful negotiations with the House to send the final bill to President Obama to sign. It’s time to end this economic nightmare and begin a new era of prosperity and growth for our country.”

The bill will help jump-start the economy now and strengthen it in the long-run as well. It will create good new jobs, invest in our future, and cut taxes for those who need help the most. It also includes funds for infrastructure projects, education and job training, energy efficiency, law enforcement, unemployment benefits, and relief for children and families struggling during these difficult economic times.

Below is a summary of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee priorities in the bill, as well as information on how the funds in the bill will help Massachusetts directly.

HELP COMMITTEE PRIORITIES IN THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT

HEALTH

HIT and Community Health Centers

· Health Information Technology: $21 billion to jumpstart efforts to computerize health records to cut costs and reduce medical errors. Health IT will increase the efficiency and quality of health care, thus reducing costs. This investment in health IT will also help American innovative industries compete in the global marketplace.

· Community Health Centers: Community Health Centers: $1.8 billion to construct and renovate clinics, and make health information technology improvements. Community health centers serve 20 percent of the nation’s uninsured population.

Scientific Research

· National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research: $2 billion, including $1.5 billion for expanding jobs in biomedical research to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease - NIH is currently able to fund less than 20% of approved applications – and $500 million to implement the repair and improvement strategic plan developed by the NIH for its campuses.

· Comparative Effectiveness Research: $1.1 billion for AHRQ, NIH and other health agencies to expand existing initiatives to compare the effectiveness of different medical treatments. Finding out what works best and educating patients and doctors will improve health care quality.

· Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: $412 million for construction and renovation and equipment.

· Biomedical Advanced Research and Development, Pandemic Flu, and Cyber Security: $900 million to prepare for a pandemic influenza, support advanced development of medical countermeasures.

COBRA and Medicaid

· COBRA Healthcare for the Unemployed: Sen. Kennedy authored the original provisions to allow unemployed workers to retain their health care coverage. The economic recovery legislation expands on this idea by providing a 50 percent COBRA premium subsidy for 12 months to eligible workers made unemployed in the recent economic crisis to help them afford that coverage. The subsidy will be administered by Treasury through mechanism that allows employers (or health plans if they administer COBRA benefits) to receive a credit against payroll taxes. This provision is estimated to cost $20 billion.

· Increase in Medicaid Funding: In the recession during the early part of this decade, Senator Kennedy fought for assistance to state Medicaid programs to aid those who cannot otherwise afford coverage to stay healthy and remain productive. Studies confirmed that this investment was one of the most direct and immediate ways to provide an economic boost, while helping lower income Americans remain healthy and stay in the work force. The current legislation builds upon and expands this idea by providing $86.7 billion for hard-pressed Medicaid programs.

EDUCATION, TRAINING AND SERVICE

Total education spending: $87B (not including tax credit)

EARLY EDUCATION

$2 billion for child care assistance under the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to enable states to serve an additional 300,000 children of low-income working families who have been hurt by the economic downturn.

$1.05 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start, $500 million for Head Start, and $550 million for Early Head Start, to help provide coverage to eligible preschoolers, infants and toddlers who are not served by existing Head Start and Early Head Start providers, as well as create thousands of jobs for new faculty and staff.

K-12 EDUCATION

$39 billion in K-12 education aid to states to prevent state cutbacks and bridge budget shortfalls in K-12 education, higher education, and early childhood education. $7.5 billion of this $39 billion will be set aside to create a State Incentive Fund, of which $650 million will be set aside for establishing an Innovation Fund, for Secretary Duncan to award bonus grants and implement key K-12 education reforms (teachers, standards, assessments).

Over $27 billion to shore up existing K-12 education programs that support needy students, including:

· $12.4 billion for Title I to meet the needs of low-income children, $1.6 billion of which must be used by school districts to expand early childhood education programs and services and $1.4 billion used to support struggling schools under ESEA (school improvement).

· $13.5 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to assist schools in meeting their commitment to educating students with disabilities. $1.9 billion of these funds will be dedicated to preschool services under section 619, and $500 million will be set aside to serve infants and toddlers with disabilities.

· $1 billion in funding for education technology through Title IID of the No Child Left Behind Act

· $70 million to improve educational services for homeless children through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act

HIGHER EDUCATION

$13.9 billion for Pell Grants, to fill the discretionary shortfall in the program, maintain current grant levels, and increase the Pell award by $281 next academic year (max award $5,012) and by $400 in the following year (max award $5,331).

$50 million to develop teacher preparation and induction partnerships through Title II of the Higher Education Act.

$61 million in student aid under the Perkins Loan Program.

$12.9 billion to establish the American Opportunity Tax Credit, expanding the existing Hope tax credit into a new $2,500/year higher education credit that is 30 percent refundable and phases out for taxpayers making $80k/year.

NATIONAL SERVICE

$200 million for national service programs, including $160 million to expand AmeriCorps.

JOB TRAINING

$3.4 billion for job training through the WIA system and other existing programs, including $1.2 billion to create up to one million summer jobs for youth, meet the needs of dislocated workers, and provide training in new high growth and emergency industry sectors. This figure also includes increased funding for Job Corps and YouthBuild programs.

$900 million in other training supports, including $400 million in employment services to match unemployed individuals to job opportunities through state employment agencies, and $500 million to help individuals with disabilities gain employment through the state Vocational Rehabilitation systems.

MASSACHUSETTS EDUCATION, TRAINING AND SERVICE

EARLY EDUCATION

· Massachusetts is expected to receive an additional $24 million in federal child care assistance to support an additional 1, 250 children and effectively double the state total allocation (raising it to nearly $49 million).

· Massachusetts would receive an additional $5.1 million in combined Head Start and Early Head Start funding to serve an additional 584 children.

K-12 EDUCATION

State Fiscal Stabilization Fund

· Massachusetts stands to receive $647 million to bridge state budget cuts and future shortfalls in K-12 education, early childhood education, and higher education.

· In addition, the fund includes $7.5 billion in new education grants to states, school districts, and schools to promote closing the achievement gap, scale up best practices, and develop partnerships with the private sector and the philanthropic community.

Education for Low-Income and Disadvantaged Students

· Massachusetts would receive an additional $198.5 million in Title I funding, of which nearly $23 million will be focused on efforts to improve low-performing schools under ESEA (based on CRS calculations).

· Boston stands to receive about $35.2 million over FY09 and FY10 in new Title I funding, based on the proportion of state Title I funding (17.7 percent) that the district received in FY08.

· Massachusetts would receive $16 million in new funds to improve education technology in schools.

· Massachusetts would receive $1.2 million in new funds to support the education of homeless children throughout the state.

IDEA

· Massachusetts would receive an additional $334 million in federal funds to support special education and related services for students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

HIGHER EDUCATION AND JOB TRAINING

Pell Grants

· Under the recovery package, Massachusetts residents attending college will receive an additional $194.2 million in Pell Grants, based on the amount the state now receives as a proportion of total Pell aid.

· About 85,000 Massachusetts residents will receive about $244 more in Pell Grant aid.

Employment and Training

· Massachusetts would receive an additional $15 million to assist dislocated workers through the Workforce Investment Act.

· Massachusetts would receive an additional $25 million to create new jobs and training opportunities for youth.

· Massachusetts would receive an additional $7.8 million to help transition individuals with disabilities from school to work, and create new jobs and training opportunities.

JOB CREATION AND ASSISTANCE TO WORKING FAMILIES

Help for the Unemployed

Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act: $7 billion to expand unemployment insurance coverage to over 500,000 workers, many of whom are low-wage earners and women. An additional $500 million in aid to states to help them pay for program administration and keep their unemployment offices and phone lines open.

Extended and increased benefits: $35 billion to continue providing extended unemployment benefits (up to 20 weeks nationally, and 33 weeks in high unemployment states) through the end of 2009. Provides $25 more in weekly benefits to all recipients.